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Women's Tennis Q&A: Evgeniya Levashova

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Evgeniya Levashova, a freshman on the Pepperdine's women's tennis team, compares her previous experience on the junior circuit to playing at Pepperdine. She also compares life back in Russia to her life now:

Evgeniya  Levashova

Q: You played very well on the junior circuit. How was that experience for you playing against such good competitors?

A: It was really tough from the beginning. Playing in a lot of good tournaments meant playing a lot of girls who were just as skilled as I was. I had to work very hard and be ready to play in whatever conditions.

Q: How do you compare the girls you played against in the junior circuit to the ones now?

A: It's kind of a different level. When we play top teams it is similar to playing the top girls in the circuit.

Q: Do you prefer singles or doubles?

A: I do both but I prefer singles.

Q: What was your favorite experience in the junior circuit?

A: Just playing matches and of course winning. The Junior European Championship and Masters were great experiences and lots of fun.

Q: What made you choose playing collegiate tennis instead of professional? And what made you choose Pepperdine?

A: Basically, I realized that it is important to have a good education. By going to college I will be better off for life after tennis. As for Pepperdine, when I was young I really liked Los Angeles, it was always my dream to come here. So I really like the location and the coaches played a big part and what they have been able to do with this program.

Q: Have you ever had any big injuries and what did they teach you?

A: Yeah, I have. I had an ACL injury. I feel like it was good for me overall since I realized you have to be prepared for everything. Also before my injury I didn't want to go to college at all, I didn't think about the future, I just wanted to play and go pro. But my injury showed me that I need something to protect myself and that having an education will do that.

Q: How is it playing for Per and Lauren and how did you get in contact with them?

A: I really like them. I knew Lauren was great. As for Per a lot of my friends and coaches said he was a really great coach and person. I had originally got into contact with Mario who was an assistant coach then I met with him. But then I started really talking to Per and now Lauren came and I think they are awesome.

Q: How do they help you with your game?

A: Per is a really good coach. He not only focuses on the movements but the mental aspects. He makes sure we pay attention to the little things, which I think is very helpful. He's taught me what to do between points and after points and how to recover. I also see them helping me outside of tennis with life in general.

Q: How do you like the team overall?

A: I knew Luisa and Ashley before. I knew Luisa since we use played a lot of tournaments together so we knew each other. I heard about Ashley and how she was awesome. When I got here I was nervous meeting everyone but once I did it turned out they liked me and I liked them and we have become a big family. They are all always there for me whether it's about tennis or life. It's really awesome to have a team like this.

Q: How do you compare your life now to back in Russia?

 A: The weather for starters is definitely different. Russia gets cold in the winter where here it just stays the same temperature. The culture and people are also different. But it's not a big difference otherwise. In Russia we play a lot more indoor since it gets cold, but in America they practice here whenever they want.

Q: How are you feeling as we get closer to the postseason?

A: I am really excited. I think we are all good players and we can win these tournaments as long as we all come together and fight to the end. It may not be easy but I think we can do it.

Men's Volleyball Update: Weston Barnes

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With his final two regular-season home matches coming up later this week, senior libero Weston Barnes of the men's volleyball team penned this letter to his younger self:

Weston  Barnes

Dear 18-year-old Wes:

Two and a half years from now, you will be on the court in a ridiculously bright orange jersey. You'll look to the sideline and see Marv Dunphy. You can't tell by the stoic look on his face, but you will have just taken down the #1-ranked team in the country. None of this makes sense to you now, so let me explain.

Right now, you are one week from the start of your four-year college journey. Well actually, you're gonna need five years.

Tomorrow, you're going to get a phone call from your new volleyball coach at George Mason University. He's going to tell you that the captain of your team was hit by a train last night and died.

This will change the dynamic of your team, your college experience and the way you view life. You will see your teammates work themselves into the ground all season long to honor him. Learn from their work ethic.

But you won't be on the court with them. Remember when I told you that you would actually need five years? Well, at the start of the season, you're going to land weird on your left leg and tear your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This is going to absolutely suck. You won't be able to understand why your first year of college has gone the complete opposite direction from which you thought, but don't worry, you'll get it back.

This injury will teach you more about yourself and what you're capable of than you ever could have imagined. SO PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN AND GRIND. Work as hard as you can to come back stronger. The doctor will say that you'll be feeling 100% again in 8-12 months, you won't be, but keep working. Your sophomore year ... well, redshirt freshman now, you will be playing libero. Fourteen months after your ACL surgery, the doctor will have to surgically remove the screws from your knee that are causing you a stress fracture. Again, put your head down and work. You'll be back on the court in four weeks and playing some of the best ball of your career so far.

The summer after your sophomore year you'll get another call from your coach at George Mason. He's going to tell you that he's leaving the program.

You're going to realize that there might be something else out there for you. An opportunity to return home to the West Coast. An opportunity to improve your relationship with your family. An opportunity to play in a new conference against the best teams in the country night after night.

Act on this opportunity, but act fast because summer is almost over and the clock is ticking. Make phone calls, send emails and meet with any coach who is willing to meet with you. Make sure you reach out to David Hunt at Pepperdine and go meet with him. He will tell you that there's a 5% chance that you could attend Pepperdine in the fall.

The uncertainty of where you will spend the next three years of your life will break you, but you'll be prepared to handle it. Take the method of relentless pursuit that you had with your ACL rehab and apply it to the process of transferring.

To this day I am not exactly sure how, but it will work out despite the 5% probability. Pepperdine admissions will open up a transfer application for you and you will have two days to complete it.

A week later you will receive your acceptance to Pepperdine. This is one of those instances where everything just seems to work out beyond your scope of control. Please take the time to properly thank those who made this happen. You will forever be in debt to Jan Ward, Fred Chao, Bob Ctvrtlik, Lynn Fair, Bob Barnes and your parents for the ways they helped you through this process.

Because of this process, you will understand what a privilege it is to go to Pepperdine. Keep the lessons you've learned close because these tools will allow you to thrive here. Enjoy the history of Firestone Fieldhouse, learn the power of interpersonal communication from Coach Dunphy, cherish your conversations with Coach Hunt, and honor the players that came before you by competing as hard as you can every time you step on the court.

The first time you wear that orange jersey, one word will enter your mind and never leave: "FUEGO!" This word embodies who you are on the court and the excitement you feel every time you wear those orange and blue colors.

Your fifth and final year will come quickly, and your teammates will call you an old man, though you will never be as old as your Austrian teammate, Alex Harthaller. The thought of graduating will absolutely terrify you. Pepperdine will become a huge part of your identity, and you will be unsure what life looks like after college. But deep down you will know that your journey through college has prepared you to succeed at the next challenge. Once a Wave, always a Wave.

In this final year, your Pepperdine team will take a road trip back to your old stomping grounds, George Mason University. Wear your blue and orange with pride, but know that you would be nowhere without the guys that had your back in those first two years. 

Oh yeah, by the way, your three years at Pepperdine won't be all sunshine and rainbows. Yes, there will be a lot of beautiful sunshine in Malibu, but when you find yourself in the lowest lows, seek out a coach by the name of Max Rooke. He will teach you how to handle life's greatest challenges. Talk about your feelings, and he will tell you not to let an external force set the limitations of what you can accomplish. Maximize your power and happiness by focusing on what you can control, and don't let the things you can't control limit you.

Much love,

Weston "Fueg Train" Barnes

Women's Soccer Q&A: Brooke Zenner

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Brooke Zenner, a sophomore for the Pepperdine's women's soccer team, reflects on her team's Spring Break trip to Costa Rica and how she felt playing soccer and learning about the culture:

Brooke  Zenner

Q: You and the soccer team went to Costa Rica for spring break. What did you do there?

A: We were super lucky to have the opportunity to go to Costa Rica. We thought we were going to play a lot of soccer but ended up only playing two games, which were very cool experiences since we got to see how teams from another country got to play. We even got to come together with them after. We also did work with a school there called Los Gallitos. This was one of the highlights for me since we were working with children who do not really have the best home life. They go through a really detailed interview process to decide what children go there where they choose the children who need the most help. It was very eye-opening to see what they are going through and we got to hang out and play with them.

Q: What work did you do with the children?

A: We went to their school and they had an outdoor play area so half of us were outside with the older kids and the other half of us were inside with the babies and the infants. We mainly just gave them all our attention and spent the day with them.

Q: Where did you go within Costa Rica?

A: There are a lot of different provinces in Costa Rica but we flew into Guanacaste. This is the part with more beaches, which is where we stayed. We then drove to the capital of Costa Rica, San José, where we got to stay downtown, which was cool. It was really cool to see the differences in areas around Costa Rica; from the Caribbean side, the more agriculture side, then the downtown area.

Q: What else did you do for the mission part of trip while there?

A: We also put on a soccer clinic in San José. There were like a hundred children who came during their PE period or recess time. We basically just played games with them and taught them a little even though they all already knew how to play since soccer is so big down there. It was very fun to love on the kids and just give them attention and enjoy our time.

Q: How did you feel you impacted them or they impacted you?

A: It was definitely a two-way street. We always say how we went to make an impact but we came away with them impacting us. I think it was very eye opening to get out of the Pepperdine bubble and to be able to go to a different country and see that they aren't that different from us and we all love the game of soccer. I also want to be a teacher so it was really special for me to see lots of opportunities to teach abroad. Overall, I think we left an impact of love on them and showed them what Pepperdine is about, but they definitely left a bigger imprint on us.

Q: What other activities did you do while there?

A: We went zip lining while we were there, which was super fun but kind of scary since you had to rock climb in-between zip lines. Some of us were freaking out! We also got to go on a catamaran where we got to go snorkeling and just hang out on the boat. One of the excursion highlights was a waterfall nature hike that was also a zoo in the rainforest part of Costa Rica. The animals were all exotic animals that used to be illegally owned as pets. We saw cute monkeys and cheetahs and not to mention these four gorgeous waterfalls, which was really cool since when I think of Costa Rica, I think of the rain forest part.

Q: What food did you eat?

A: The food was so good! Every day we would have rice, chicken and beef, especially at a buffet where we ate so much. At this restaurant in San José we had the most delicious empanadas, rice, chicken and chips.

Q: What soccer teams did you play and what differences did you see?

A: We played against Saprissa and Liberia. The first team we played said we played a lot more by position, where they play more fluid and will move around more. But there are pretty much the same principles of trying to pass more, which was cool to see that there are similarities from two different teams around the world.

Q: What did you get out of the trip?

A: I didn't really know what to expect going in. I just kept an open mind and to be ready for whatever. It turned out to be one of the best weeks of my life because we did so much. It was fun, yes, but more importantly we got to see and learn about a different country and culture. For me the highlight was working with the kids both at soccer and at the school. It is always very eye opening when I travel. We also didn't have our phones, which was actually nice because we were able to disconnect and connect with the team.

Q: Do you have any other takeaways from this experience?

A: It was one of the best weeks of my life. My biggest takeaway is how grateful my whole team was to get such a cool opportunity and experience that not a lot of people get.

Men's Golf Q&A: Clay Feagler

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Sophomore men's golfer Clay Feagler tells us about his recent success, including his victory at the Prestige at PGA West, and what that means for himself and the team going forward:

Clay  Feagler

Q: What's your mindset going into each tournament?
My mindset in the fall was to just play well but I didn't end up having a very good season. My mindset now is to go out and actually try to win.

Q: How do you warm up at the beginning of a tournament?

A: My routine starts with eating breakfast, going to the putting green and then going to the chipping green. I don't like to warm up too much because then I'll get too tired for the first round.

Q: You've had an excellent spring season so far, what's working for you?

A: Confidence has really helped. After my win at the Prestige, my confidence was really boosted. I haven't changed my stroke or anything but just knowing that I am capable of not only competing but winning has really helped.

Q: What did you change from the fall to the spring season?

A: Golf-wise I didn't change anything, but I really adjusted my mental approach. I not only want to play well but to win. Having people beside me who have the shared belief in my abilities as I do has really helped with my success.

Q: What did it mean to win your first college tournament?

A: One of my biggest of accomplishments ever, especially in college. It didn't sink in until I got home because I was still in shock. It really meant a lot, though, because that's what I'm here for, I'm here to compete and to win both individually and as a team.

Q: What was most memorable about that win?

A: The birdie on 17 by far. I had 60 feet and I made it. It felt so good to make a clutch putt to win the tournament. God was definitely shining down on me in that moment and it felt amazing.

Q: The most recent event, the Southern Highlands Collegiate, is one of the best tournaments in the country each year, so how did it feel to do so well at that one?    

A: It's always nice to do well at a great event. I tied for 20th last year and followed up this year with a tie for third. Based off my recent success this season, the extra confidence is definitely what helped me.

Q: What are you hoping to accomplish during the rest of the season?

A: The team goal would be to get to match play at NCAAs. That has always been a dream of mine, to compete as a team and win a national championship. Personally, I just want to keep on the path that I'm currently on and see how I can progress. My main focus is on the team and doing whatever I can to contribute to the whole team's success.

Baseball Q&A: Wil Jensen

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Wil Jensen, a sophomore right-handed pitcher on the Pepperdine's baseball team, tells us about how he is feeling about his tremendous start to the season (3-0, 0.62 ERA in 29.0 innings) and where he hopes to go from here:

Wil  Jensen

Q: Your season has been off to a good start. How are you feeling about playing at this level?

A: Honestly, I am excited but I know how baseball is the most humbling game. You can never let yourself get a big head because then you won't be able to maintain consistent success. I am just trying to stay focused on what I have been doing, keep it the same, keep working on throwing strikes and hitting my spots and I think it has been working out.

Q: How have you been pitching so well? Do you have any secrets or rituals?

A: Our pitching coach is huge into the mental side of baseball and I think he is a genius. He has us do a lot of visualization and picturing yourself having success. Last year I remember doubting myself at different times, not necessarily when I was on the mound, but before the game. But this year if I think a bad thought I will instantly dismiss it and convince myself I can do it and I feel like it has been working. I also started throwing a different pitch, a slider, where it looks like a fastball but at the last second it drops, so that has helped a ton. Throwing strikes also helps because it builds confidence, versus when you walk somebody and give them a free base, that's demoralizing since there is almost always a direct correlation between walks and runs scored. Basically just limiting the walks and any freebies, and by stopping that will lead to success in my opinion.

Q: What do you expect from yourself from this point on?

A: I think that goes along with the mental side of it. I need to just continue to do what I am doing and not let the game speed up. Hopefully it will keep lining up and I'll keep having success.

Q: How does it feel to be Pepperdine's ace?

A: It's awesome. I got to watch two guys last year that were ahead of me and to see how they approached it every time they were about to pitch. That was a great learning experience because now I will take bits and pieces from them and apply it to myself on the mound. It is exciting because my hope for whenever I am pitching is that we have confidence that we can win any game. To have people be able to rely on me is a nice feeling.

Q: How do you feel you have grown from last year to this year?

A: Strength-wise I've had a huge increase since I came in last year at like 150. So from then I have gained a lot of strength, weight and a little bit of velocity. I have come from 88 mph last year to a consistent 90-91. Also mentally, I just don't doubt myself like I used to.

Q: What are your goals this season for the team and for yourself?

A: For the team I think I speak for all the guys in that we want to go to the College World Series in Omaha, which I think we can. This year I think our team is stacked and we can be really good as long as we just focus on staying consistent with pitching and hitting. If we do that I think we would be able to beat anyone. For my personal goals I'd love to keep my ERA below a 3 and a lot more wins than losses. I'd also like to try and double my strikeouts from last year, which I think I can do since I added my new pitch.

Q: Do you feel offseason workouts helped the team bond and have led to why you are doing well now?

A: We do this workout called down-backs, which are just awful. Every Tuesday morning last fall at 5:30 a.m., and there is just no way you don't come together with the guys when you are all going through the same pain. Our trainer acts super tough at that time by yelling at us and all that and the only way you can succeed is if you are picking up your team. So now I think we all really like each other and get along, which is awesome. I think these past experiences are playing a role now in helping us win games. Especially with the help from our strength coach who is such a great guy and really knows how to bring the team together.

Q: Are there any upcoming games you are excited for?

A: I am from Utah and was recruited by BYU a little bit. But last year I pitched against BYU and threw probably one of my worst games. So I am excited to do the opposite this year.

Q: How long have you been playing baseball?

A: Probably since I was like 4 or 5, back in the tee ball days. I definitely have had a lot of reps on my arm.

Q: What made you pick pitcher as your position?

A: In high school I played second base, a little shortstop, and I hit too. I am not going to lie but in the end that is what I am in love with when it comes to baseball. I would also pitch and that is what I feel I was most successful in. When you get to college you have to decide to be a pitcher full time or a position player full time. If I wanted to go to a school with a baseball background like this, I had to decide which I was best at. In high school pitching was always a second thing but now it is cool to focus solely on pitching, different pitches, repetition and other ways to get better. Plus, I think it is cool to see how just being a pitcher has helped me in the long run.

Q: Why Pepperdine?

A: First off, even though I know everyone says this, but the view is unbelievable. But mainly I know how hard it is to make it to the MLB so I had to think out of all the schools, which has the most academic integrity. A degree from Pepperdine is top notch. The coaches, especially the pitching coach, are awesome. I love him since he was different than the other pitching coaches I met. He is the nicest guy I've ever met and he knows every pitcher is different, plus his views on the mental game have helped. Finally, I wanted to go to a school for baseball where I could make a difference right away and get better right away. I felt like I was wanted here. Last year I got to start on Sundays to where I am now I feel like I can have a sort of leadership role, which is really cool and makes it fun.

Beach Volleyball Q&A: Brook Bauer

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Freshman beach volleyball player Brook Bauer tells us about moving across the country and her excitement about starting her first college season:

Brook  Bauer

Q: What helped you make the choice to move from Florida to California to play college beach volleyball?

A: I made the choice to come out here because, as much as I love Florida, I've always wanted to live in California. Pepperdine and its beach volleyball program were huge magnets in my decision to make the move across the country. 

Q: How has your experience competing at Zuma Beach been so far?

A: I love practicing at Zuma. We are so blessed to be the only team in the country to have the opportunity to practice at a true beach every single day. It also doesn't hurt that we get to whale watch for free too! Zuma has prepared us for just about every weather condition, from 100-degree days to quick incoming fog, rain, wind and cold temperatures. We are so grateful to be able to call it our home.

Q: What kind of team dynamic and chemistry does the beach volleyball team have?

A: The beach volleyball team's dynamic and chemistry is unlike anything I've ever been a part of. It's amazing how our intensity in training and practice can be so high, yet everyone on our team is such good friends and cares so genuinely for each other. The environment is cohesive and we all love to compete together as one unit.

Q: You played at the same high school as Nikki Lyons, Did you two know each other before coming to play here?

A: Yes, I've known Nikki for around five years and played in high school with her, so she has been one of my best friends for a while.

Q: Which upperclassman has had an impact on you so far and why?

A: Nikki has had a huge influence on my freshman year. The fact that she has had experience here at Pepperdine now for three years made my entering in a lot smoother, as she is always there for me when I have questions or dilemmas. I'm so lucky to have a mentor and close friend like her at the same school and on the same team as me.

Q: What are you looking forward to most in this season?

A: I am so excited for this season to start. I'm looking forward to finally being able to represent Pepperdine and compete as a team against other schools. I'm also looking forward to traveling and making more memories on and off the court with my teammates.

Q: What can we expect from the beach volleyball team this season?

A: You can be sure to expect a ton of energy and excitement for the game and an intensity level focused on bringing back a national championship for the Waves!

Baseball Q&A: Aharon Modlin

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Aharon Modlin, a sophomore infielder on the Pepperdine baseball team, discusses his expectations for the team and plans for a successful 2018 season:

Aharon  Modlin

Q: Heading into your second season as a Wave, what expectations do you have for the team?

A: I expect a lot out of the team this year. Ultimately, our goal is to go to Omaha and win a national championship, but it starts by going out there and winning our conference first.

Q: Last season you had the second-best batting average on the team. How did you adapt so well coming in as a freshman?

A: At the beginning it was challenging, but as the year went on I became more and more comfortable with my role. There were many late nights in the cage working on my swing, which definitely helped.

Q: After the season you had last year, what expectations do you have for yourself this upcoming season?

A: I'm always looking to learn from my teammates and coaches and improve. This year I'd like to increase the amount of quality at-bats I have, whether that's in walks, hits or executing for the team.

Q: How do you envision your role on the team changing from your freshman to sophomore year?

A: As a freshman, I was excited to just be a part of the team. This year I think my role involves more leadership because I have a year under my belt. I'm able to help the freshmen who haven't experienced a D-I season yet. Whether it's on the field or in the dugout I'm looking forward to helping our team win.

Q: Coming from Irvine, what made you choose Pepperdine?

A: I felt it was the best place for me to develop as a baseball player, as well as get a top-notch education. The location is great and it allows me to drive home and see my family easily.

Q: As a Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete, what things do you do to maintain success both in academics and athletics?

A: There's a lot of time management involved every day. I've taken advantage of the great facilities we have on campus, like the new library. I can go in there and get my work done before and after practice and not get behind in my classes. As for baseball, we have a culture that encourages early work before practices so we can do drills to improve.

Q: What or who would you say has been your biggest inspiration or motivation thus far in your baseball career?

A: My parents have been great role models throughout my life. I've learned a lot about hard work and dedication from them. They taught me how to deal with failure and have a positive mindset, which has helped a lot as my baseball career goes on.

Q: Any games you're particularly excited about this season?

A: We play a midweek game against Cal State Fullerton, which is exciting. They were a team that made it to Omaha last year and are known to always have a great program so it'll be a good test for us.

Women's Golf Q&A: Hira Naveed

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Hira Naveed is a junior who plays for the women's golf team at Pepperdine. The Waves begin the spring season next week at their own Bruin Wave Invitational. She tells us how she has stayed in form during the break between the fall and spring seasons:

Hira  Naveed

Q: What are your feelings toward spring season?

A: I am super excited. I think we all are since it's the big season where we really need to perform. We are all just itching to get out there because it has been a long time since we last competed. Even the coaches are really hyped up to perform.

Q: There is a large break between seasons with your sport. How do you stay playing and competing at a high level during that off time?

A: I just keep my routine going and keep practicing. This down time is good for us because we can really work on our game and hone in on our weaknesses and try to get better with those aspects of the game. The break is also nice because it gives me a chance to focus on my academics and also the ability to go home and see family during the winter, which is nice.

Q: What are your goals for the upcoming spring?

A: For this upcoming event I hope to have a good finish within the top 10 since it is a great field and we get to compete against great players. It would really help my ranking to finish higher up as well as being a good confidence booster. For the season, my goal is to finish high in all the events and even get a win in there somewhere, which would kick-start a few things for me. Just to perform at my best is what I want to be able to do. While as a team goal, I think it would be really great for us to win a tournament since the spring tournaments are much tougher.

Q: Last year you went to the NCAA Championships. Does that give you motivation to get back to that spot?

A: Oh yeah, definitely. Last year we did really well at regionals and made it to nationals, which was our goal. But at the Championships we did not really perform to the best of our abilities. That then translates to this year and gives us a real fire in the belly to of course get back there, but also perform better once there and help our team go forward.

Q: How did you feel about your play last season after having one of the best scoring averages?

A: Last season wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst either. It was tough. A lot of tournaments I knew I didn't play to the best of my ability. Mentally I didn't feel quite there in a lot of the events. But at some I did do well. Hopefully this season I will be able to do much better.

Q: What have you been doing to improve your game during the long break?

A: I actually managed to get a tournament in there back home in Australia. Which was a great field of players and I managed to get to the semifinals. I also worked a lot on honing the very small aspects of the game that we don't tend to look at and I think by improving those parts it will make the bigger picture much better.

Q: How do you feel about your coaches?

A: I have a great relationship with Coach Gibbs and Coach Katie. Coach Katie is really fun and relatable. She tells us about her experiences with college where she played so it is great to get feedback from her time to time. Then with Coach Gibbs, without her, I wouldn't even be here. She means a lot to me both personally and professionally; she is almost like a mother.

Q: What are your thoughts about playing at Pepperdine and on the team overall?

A: Pepperdine is a place that is filled with great people who are all very supportive. With the team, the girls are a very fun bunch. Every day, there is something funny happening at practice. We all get along very well even while we are all from different countries with there being a lot of international players on the team. We all are able to come together as a group and get the job done.

Track Q&A: Kevin Maeda

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Kevin Maeda, a senior who has spent four years with the cross country and track teams, reflects on his time running for Pepperdine and explains his excitement for the program's future. He also talks about what his postgraduate plans are:

Kevin  Maeda

Q: It is your final semester of college running. What are your feelings right now?

A: It's definitely bittersweet. I have recognized that running and all that have to come to an end. This is the first season of track where I am coming in completely healthy so I am excited to see how well I can do and show how much I have grown and improved here as a runner. Being able to see that come to fruition will be very exciting.

Q: How did you feel about your final cross country season in the fall?

A: I think it ended on a really good note. There was a mid-season lull where I felt I was struggling with many different things in my life. But once I found peace with those things I noticed my running started to improve along with it. Coach Rad and Coach Emma did a great job helping me come back to a place where I could enjoy running, which ended with me having a really great race at Regionals. I am grateful for the season I had and am happy with how it ended.

Q: What are you most looking forward to for spring track season?

A: I am definitely a distance runner. I feel I prosper in longer races. I am looking forward to running the 5K. The meets I am looking forward to are UCI and UCLA. UCI is a very competitive meet and we normally run the 5K there. Then at UCLA I will hopefully place into the seeded race and get to run against some of the fastest runners in the state. During our cross country meet with them we felt very competitive against them. Getting exposure to guys who are running 14 flat I think is very good for our program.

Q: Do you think the track and cross country programs are headed in a good direction?

A: The future for this program is bright. The freshmen we have right now are fantastic. It has been great being able to spend more time with the freshmen compared to previous seasons. We feel more like a collective unit this season. I feel that I have shown them how I operate, which I hope has helped them mature from a high school runner to a college runner. I've been trying to share wisdom with them whenever I can. I have been able to share my knowledge of how our coach operates with the younger guys on the team in hopes they will be able to master it faster than I did.

Q: What are you goals for the upcoming track season?

A: When setting my goals I made sure that they were just high enough where I have to work very hard. In the past I have run a 14:54 but that was sophomore year. Right now my goal for the 5K is to run a sub-14:30. I feel that I can attain this after coming off probably my best cross country season. But I think I will have a better understanding of a time goal after the first couple of meets since I will be able to see what I am capable of. If I had to give a time for the 3K I would say around 8:35, which would be a great start to the season.

Q: How have injuries affected your running career and mindset at Pepperdine?

A: I have had a number of injuries. They got bad enough that I didn't even run track sophomore year. But my mindset I feel is better than ever. I think this is my season to come back and show others and myself what I am fully capable of.

Q: As a senior what are you trying to do to lead the underclassmen? Is there anything you want to leave for the program?

A: Ultimately I just want to share what I have done with them so they are able to reflect on that and shape what they want their experience here to be. I want our men's team to flourish these next few years especially with the high potential of the freshmen. I know how great they can be and I want them to be able to see that too. I know they can be top four in conference against some very respectable teams. I have also been trying to educate them with what their academic journey can lead them to.

Q: You are the co-president of the Waves Leadership Council. Are there any interesting initiatives or plans for this spring?

A: Yes, we are always pretty busy. Throughout my years here I think that participation has increased in a huge way. In the spring we are planning to partner with Relay for Life. Our major plan for the end of April is a huge beach cleanup in Santa Monica before the WCC Beach Volleyball Championships.

Q: What are your post-grad plans?

A: During the summer I was applying to dental school and taking tests. A large part of my fall semester was participating in interviews for a few different colleges. I have chosen to go to UCLA. Starting in the fall of 2018 I will be going to UCLA dental school, starting my next four years of schooling. After that, I can hopefully go into a specialty program, potentially orthodontia.

Q: What are you going to miss most about Pepperdine?

A: Pepperdine has made me into the man I am today. I felt like I came here with a good foundation set by my family but thanks to Pepperdine and everyone here I have been able to flourish and grow more than I ever thought was possible. I am going to miss the competition of running for sure, along with mentoring the younger runners. Running for a university is something I will never be able to replicate. I will miss Coach Rad; he has been huge in my development as a person. He was always super encouraging and gave me the confidence I need to pursue life without fear. Finally, I will miss the community I have garnered here at Pepperdine and all the friends I have made. Luckily UCLA isn't too far away so I will make trips back here and help out in whatever ways I can.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Kameron Edwards

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Kameron Edwards is a redshirt sophomore on the Pepperdine's men's basketball team. He explains what it was like to be out for a month due to a concussion, along with how he feels he has grown as a player while at Pepperdine:

Kameron  Edwards

Q: You were injured for about a month. What was it like having to sit out that time due to your injury?

A: It wasn't that bad actually because last year I had to redshirt due to injury. This year I was hurt for a little bit, but I knew I would be back before the end of the season, so it was a lot better than last year. On top of that, since it was a concussion, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. It was kind of out of my control. It wasn't as bad as you might think.

Q: With your injury being a concussion were you allowed to do anything while recovering?

A: For the whole month I pretty much couldn't do anything. I wasn't even able to take my finals. At practices I just sat around. I could do a little bit of biking, some sit-ups and push-ups but nothing else. It was tough since it was the middle of the season and I felt like I was declining as everyone else was getting better.

Q: How did you feel being back on the court right after you were cleared?

A: I was kind of just thrown back into things. After having to sit out for a month, then going through two full practices, then a game. I was playing within two days of getting cleared. I was out of shape for one, then a little rusty. I wasn't sure if I was completely ready but I had to go with it and do my best.

Q: Did you feel like you had to work harder to come back?

A: Yeah, that's something I had to be careful with. I tried to work a little harder but at the same time I knew I wasn't going to get it all back in one day. I had to be patient. I was only out for a month so I didn't lose everything. I really just had to be patient knowing it will come back.

Q: How do you compare having a concussion to another more regular injury?

A: I think it's a lot worse because you can't do anything. Say if I had hurt my ankle, I could still lift and go to class. But with a concussion you can't use your brain at all.

Q: How do you think your injury affected the team?

A: I think at first when we found out I was going to be out it affected morale a lot. But they also knew I was going to be back. Morale was down a bit but there was definitely hope that I was going to be back.

Q: What is your goal for the remainder of the season?

A: We are just trying to get better every game. Obviously this season isn't going how we would like. We are still trying to learn and improve so we have to come to work everyday. We also know we have a lot of young talent so the years to come should be pretty good. Our mindset is that no matter if we win or lose we have to get better.

Q: Your brother is a senior in high school and has committed to Pepperdine. How do you feel knowing you are going to get to play with him next year?

A: We were able to play together my senior year of high school since he was a freshman on varsity. It was a lot of fun. I am excited. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity so of course I am going to cherish it. It will have its ups and downs but it's going to be a blast. I honestly can't wait. He is a really good player both mentally and physically.

Q: How much have you grown as a player since freshman year?

A: I'd say my biggest growth since freshman year is mentally. I have to say freshman year I was not very confident. I was only a freshman back then, I was the only guy who didn't know a lot of stuff. So practices were focused on me since I would be the one who was messing up. But now I'm sort of a veteran on the team and now I know so much more, which really helps me on the court and my confidence is a lot better this year.

Q: How have you felt being at Pepperdine the last few years?

A: I've enjoyed it overall. I mean just waking up to that view everyday is something to be grateful for. I get to be close home and play Division I basketball.  My family gets to come to all the games and I still get to see my old friends. Going to a great academic and great athletic school has been really nice. I have enjoyed my experience so far for sure.

Q: You have earned Scholar-Athlete awards the last two years. What does that mean to you?

A: It means a lot, especially since I know that's what my parents want. My goal was to keep a 3.0 or higher throughout college, which is pretty tough with our schedule. It takes a lot out of me with all the time constraints but I am happy to be able to keep doing well and get that recognition for it.

Men's Golf Q&A: Sahith Theegala

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Sahith Theegala, a junior on the Pepperdine men's golf team, tells us about his outstanding 16-stroke win at the Waves Challenge this past week and what this personal and team victory means going into the rest of the spring season:

Sahith  Theegala

Q: How did you feel going into the first home tournament of the season?

A: It was good to get back into the competition because I haven't played a full tournament in about three months. I was excited to be out there myself and with my team. We knew were the best team going in so we all had a lot of energy. It was also the first tournament with our new assistant coach and we got a win.

Q: How is your new assistant coach, Blaine Woodruff?

A: He's really cool. He's really young so he's a good combination as a friend but also a good serious coach.

Q: What were you expecting going in?

A: As a team, we wanted a win. Last semester, we tried to emphasize the game more than the win but going into this tournament we were really confident in getting the win.

Q: You ended up having numerous difficulties before and during the tournament, including losing your keys, misplacing your putter and playing with two drivers. How did you overcome these challenges and stay focused?

A: I was definitely panicking before the round started but once the tournament I got into my tournament mindset and was focused. I tried to put it all in the back of my mind and stay in the zone. It also helped that it was one of our home courses. Having two drivers was intentional, though, because I use each of them for different circumstances.

Q: How did you feel about your 16-stroke win?

A: It felt surreal. I could never even imagine winning by five, let alone 16. It didn't set in until a couple days later. I played really well, and it was just one of those weeks where I felt really good. It also helped that it was our home course, I think that gave me some advantage. I also tried not to focus on my lead while I was playing, I just tried to focus on my own game.

Q: How do these personal and team wins set your team up for the rest of the spring season?

A: We're really pumped. We felt so good after the tournament that we just wanted to keep going and keep playing right after. We're under the radar in the golf world. In our next tournament we're playing some really good teams and we're excited to try to beat them. I think we're going to have a really good season.

Q: What can we expect from the golf team throughout the rest of the season?

A: I think we're going to win a lot this semester. This is only our second win since I've been here, but I think we'll pull out a couple more wins this semester. A lot of the guys are playing the best golf they've ever played, and confidence levels are up, so I think everything is coming together really well.

Q: Are the NCAA Championships in view?

A: I think we have a good shot. Last year we made Nationals and made the top 15 but didn't make top eight. Our goal this year is making match play, which is top eight. It will be hard, but we're all really excited.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with the rest of the season?

A: Once I start a tournament I don't think about my own game I just think about how to help the team. Although, I would like to have another personal win this semester. If I keep going at the rate I'm at right now I have a chance to break the lowest single-season scoring average in Pepperdine history so that would be pretty amazing to break.

Women's Tennis Q&A: Dzina Milovanovic

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Dzina Milovanovic, a junior women's tennis player from Serbia, talks to us about the exciting season they have ahead and Serbian traditions she enjoyed when she went home for the break:

Dzina  Milovanovic

Q: Being from Serbia, how did you hear about Pepperdine and why did you choose to come here?

A: I played international junior tennis tournaments and there were two tournaments in Florida where college coaches usually come out. These two tournaments were how I first got in touch with schools and eventually Pepperdine.

Q: How were your first two tennis seasons at Pepperdine?

A: I think that every season is special in its own way. My first season at Pepperdine was a completely new experience of playing not just for yourself but for your team and fellow teammates who always have your back. Competing with this new approach is always exciting. During the second season, I experienced some ups and downs due to my knee injury. However, I had a lot of support from the girls and coaches, which made it easier to recover and get back to playing. Overall, the last two years were amazing and definitely something I never expected coming into college.

Q: How do you feel being a junior now and entering this championship season?

A: Time flies! It seems like I was a freshman not that long ago. I am very excited for this season and new experiences with the girls. We have a great team this year and I think we can do really well if we keep working hard every day.

Q: With so many new players this year, how has the team dynamic changed?

A: The team is definitely different from previous years, but I think everyone is getting along pretty well so far. Women's tennis at Pepperdine is known as the most "international" sports team at Pepperdine. We are all used to adversity, different backgrounds and opinions. At the end of the day, being so far away from home we are like a big family here and always have each other's back.

Q: Having reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships two years in a row, what are you, as a team, striving for this year?

A: Our ultimate goal is to go all the way and win the NCAAs. However, I think we are aware that along the way, our focus should be on giving our best, training and doing things the right way.

Q: What are your personal goals for the season?

A: My personal goal for this season is to stay consistent and healthy, to improve certain aspects of my game, give my best every day and be there for my teammates.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduating from Pepperdine?

A: That's a good question! There are a lot of options but I am still not really sure. Hopefully, I will figure it out soon.

Q: What was it like going home to Serbia for the holidays?

A: Holidays are just a great excuse to get a break from everything and go home. It's always a great feeling going back to Serbia and seeing my family and friends.

Q: What traditions do you have in Serbia for the holidays?

A: Holidays back home are similar to the ones in the States. Some of the differences are that a majority of the Serbian population celebrates Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th. We also have a family holiday called a "Patron Saint Day" which is a ritual celebration of a family's own patron saint. During this holiday, families remember their ancestors who celebrated the same saint while also preparing lots of food and different specialties.

Baseball Q&A: Chase Lambert

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Chase Lambert, a senior on the Pepperdine baseball team, reflects on his time at Pepperdine, and the hopes he has for the upcoming 2018 season and beyond:

Chase  Lambert

Q: What are some of your thoughts as you head into your senior season?

A: It's really exciting this year with the team in general. We're all really close, closer than I think we have been in a while. The team is all really strong in the weight room, we're playing well, I'm just really excited for this season.

Q: What are some expectations or goals you have for yourself this season, particularly in light of your injury last season?

A: Obviously staying healthy is the goal, at first, I'm just trying to stay in there and play and help my team as much as possible. I just want to be able to be out there playing every day, especially because I've had to sit out for a while.

Q: What are some expectations you have for the team this year?

A: I expect a lot, I think that we can do a lot of big things this year. I want to go to Omaha, but first step first, you've got to win conference, win the conference tournament and everything and then take it from there. I expect good things this year.

Q: How has it been playing for this particular coaching staff?

A: Oh, I love them. It's really easy to talk to them, they're really understandable people. It's really nice when you don't have to worry about asking them questions, and going up and talking about things, it's really open and they're really easy to talk to.

Q: You previously mentioned that part of why you chose Pepperdine was that you're from Malibu and it was close to home. Looking back, are you still happy with that decision?

A: It is nice, now, looking back, having my parents get to be at almost every single game and my friends from high school be able to come down, and my hometown friends get to see me play too, so it's been a good experience and I've really enjoyed it.

Q: As a senior on the team, you are clearly in a leadership position. What advice have you given to the freshmen coming in?

A: It's not so much advice, just trying to give them confidence, and try to make them as comfortable as possible. I used to be a little bit timid as a freshman, didn't really open my mouth much, kind of just played, but I think everyone is very, very comfortable with each other and I feel like the group works well. The freshmen, they're good, they're comfortable and I think it's a good unit.

Q: Any plans post-grad?

A: Obviously, I want to continue my baseball career, that's the first thing I'm looking forward to. And I'm going to finish my sport administration degree in the fall and summer, and whenever I can, whenever time lets me. But that's pretty much my goal for now, and I'll see what opportunities are ahead of me from there.

Q: Reflecting on your time as a Wave, is there a favorite memory that you have?

A: One of my favorite memories is from freshman year when we won the conference tournament championship. At the time I was like, "Wow, this is amazing". And it's something that we've been trying to accomplish the last couple years. We got close my sophomore season, and obviously I couldn't play my junior season, so it's something I really want to get back to. It's a really enjoyable experience, and it feels good when you get to move on to the NCAA Tournament and try to go as far as possible from there.

Track Q&A: Caroline Archer

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Caroline Archer is a freshman on Pepperdine's track team. She explains her excitement and hopes for her first track season. She also tells us how she battled back from injury during cross country season:

Caroline  Archer

Q: How was your first indoor meet, running for around 11 minutes in the 3,000-meter race, especially since it was at a higher altitude?

A: It was difficult. I definitely felt it toward the second half of the race.

Q: How did you feel about the team's overall performance at the first meet?

A: I thought that it was a decent start. It is always hard at the first race of the season. We call it the "rust buster" but it was good to have all the training groups together and have the ability to compete. I feel that we all gave a really good effort.

Q: What are your thoughts for the second and final indoor meet of the season?

A: I think we will see a lot of improvement. After two more weeks of training we have a much better foundation now. We are definitely looking to be a lot more competitive at this meet.

Q: Are you looking forward to the outdoor season?

A: I am looking forward to outdoor season starting. I like it more than indoor since the track for indoor meets is only 200 meters, so I have to run a lot of laps and it is harder to stay focused after so many laps. So it is nice that outdoor has a longer track so I don't have to do as many laps. I also am excited for the fresh air at the outdoor meets compared to the more stuffy indoor meets. I feel like these factors are going to help me especially because I am an endurance runner.

Q: How was your first cross country season, even though you only got to compete in the last three meets?

A: I started the season with tendonitis, which was definitely disappointing. But I was really happy to be able to compete at the end of the season. I had a lot of fun traveling to meets. There were some very cool opportunities. I am still grateful for being able to run at all, especially at regionals, which was an awesome experience.

Q:  What did you have to do to come back from your injury?

A: I had to cross train. I was biking and swimming a lot to stay fit. The training staff helped me a lot by giving me strength work to do that was specific to my injury. I just had to slowly build up mileage.

Q: Being from Tennessee, what brought you all the way to Malibu?

A: I mean, what's not to like? I felt very called to come here. I had a really good feeling about Pepperdine. I have the ability to run and compete and have wonderful classes with a good class size. I am really happy I decided to come here, and even if it is far from home, I think it's worth it.

Q: How is your first year going overall?

A: It is going well. I've definitely been shoved out of my comfort zone but I think that's for the better since I have gotten to grow a lot as an athlete and as a person. I am really happy with being here.

Q: What are the major differences you see between high school and college?

A: There is a lot less structure here. Back in high school I had a very set schedule and knew when everything was going to happen. But here, every day looks different. There are more chances to be spontaneous, which is a good thing, but I also have to be more responsible and manage my time. Also overall I feel like there is a higher level of work expected from me here.

Q: Do you think that track and cross country work well with your academics?

A: Yes, I think they are very complimentary. They both require a lot of focus and diligence. But it is nice that they are different types of hard work so I can take a break from one and get to do the other.

Q: What got you into running long distance and what do you like about it?

A: I did cross country for the first time in middle school and since I am pretty competitive it was fun to go out and compete in something I am pretty good at. It has really become a big part of my life. I like how it is very counter-cultural, having to embrace pain and have all this delayed gratification. You have to train a lot before taking even five seconds off your time. I feel like it overall has taught me very good life skills.

Barbara Sitanggan, a sophomore guard on the Pepperdine women's basketball team, leads the team in assists and steals. She shares what she hopes to achieve as the season progresses:

Barbara  Sitanggan

Q: How has the season been going so far?

A: It has been up and down, honestly. In the beginning, we started off really strong and it was the same with conference. We are just trying to find our way back to where we were.

Q: How has your sophomore year been different than freshman year?

A: There has been a lot of changes, coaching-wise and with new players. I think it was for the better. I have really loved my sophomore season so far and how everything is going.

Q: How has the team adapted to the new coach, DeLisha Milton-Jones?

A: We have adapted pretty well. She was our assistant coach last year, so having that bond with her and then that growing with her as the head coach has been great. We already knew her and had a relationship with her and now that she is our head coach, it is really good.

Q: You lead the team in assists and steals. What do you see as your strengths?

A: Definitely defense because I am all over the other players and my coaches are always telling me to not foul or reach. That is something I really need to work on. Also, being the point guard, leading the team, trying to find everybody in their spots, and passing the ball, so I can get those assists.

Q: After such a strong season last year, making it to the WCC All-Freshman team, what are you doing this season to keep it up?

A: I have been working with the coaches on different things that I was not able to do last year, such as shooting more. As we have been going deeper into the West Coast Conference season, I have been able to shoot more, work on my floaters, and improve on the little areas that I did not have time for last year.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: Just being a floor general. Last year I was learning, more so to play at the college level, and now I am trying to find that role and communicating with everyone.

Q: Does the team have any specific goals for the rest of this season?

A: Our goal is to find our identity first. We are trying to work through that. We have definitely improved from last year and I think it is amazing. Our culture has been so much better this year. One of our main goals is to get further in the West Coast Conference Championships and that is our focus right now.

Q: Is there anything you want to do this year that you haven't done yet?

A: Not this year, but next year I am hoping to go abroad during the summer. Hopefully I will be going to Thailand.

Track Q&A: Catie Barilla

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Catie Barilla, a junior on Pepperdine's track team, expresses her excitement for her third track season as a Wave. She explains how she feels about the team and goes into detail about what hurdling means to her:

Catie  Barilla

Q: What are your feelings about the first indoor meet of the semester?

A: The first meet was a great trial experience. The elevation was difficult to adjust to, but overall the track girls performed well. For the freshmen, it was a great opportunity to get a feel for collegiate competition.

Q: How are you and the team looking to improve going into the second indoor meet?

A: Going into the second meet, we are going to better prepare for the high elevation and practice more of the technical movements essential to sprinting.

Q: As the team captain and one of the few upperclassmen, how do you lead this team of freshmen?

A: As a team captain, I try to be responsive to how the freshmen feel. I know it can be a difficult transition from high school to college track, so I try to work with them through the growing pains. We were lucky to get a great group of girls that are coachable and hard workers. They really make the job easy.

Q: What are some differences between indoor and outdoor meets?

A: The major difference between indoor and outdoor meets is the high elevation. We go from ocean level Malibu to the snowing high mountains where the air is very thin. This makes it more difficult to sprint at full speed. I know for myself it is challenging for my lungs to adapt and breathe normally during a race. 

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: One of my goals for this season is to improve my hurdle form, and in result improve my 400-hurdle time. I am also excited to watch the freshmen perform and hopefully crush their high school times. Ultimately, I want us all to have an injury-free season. 

Q: What does it mean to hold one of the outdoor hurdle records for Pepperdine?

A: For me, holding one of the outdoor records is a reminder that I can break my own time. Track is really a competition against the clock and with each year, I hope to improve the record. 

Q: How did you get into track and hurdles?

A: I originally started running track after my dad encouraged me to try it. He and his brothers were track stars back in the day and I thought maybe I could carry on the Barilla legacy. I started running hurdles because I wanted more of a challenge while sprinting.

Q: Why do you like those events?

A: I enjoy running hurdles because it gives me something else to think about while sprinting. Having an obstacle in the way forces me to focus on how many steps I am taking rather than how much pain I am in. It is a difficult race but there is nothing like crossing that finish line knowing you broke your record.

Q: Explain the difficulty of hurdling compared to sprinting.

A: Running 400 hurdles is much more tiring than sprinting because it uses extra energy to jump over the hurdle. Not only are you sprinting at full speed, but also trying to quickly run through a 30-inch piece of plastic. Ultimately the challenge is rewarding and never gets old.

Men's Tennis Q&A: Max Mendelsohn

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Max Mendelsohn, a freshman on Pepperdine's men's tennis team, gives us his thoughts about his team and his performance so far:

Max  Mendelsohn

Q: How would you describe playing well?

A: To me, it would definitely mean staying consistent, and when I do play in the lineup, to give everything I have every match. I know I am only a freshman this year but I don't want to ever use that as an excuse on not being able to compete. As long as you can stay consistent and compete to the best of your ability, I think you are doing well.

Q: How does it feel to have been doing well your freshman year?

A: Over the fall I had some good results. I was playing guys that were older than me but that's not what I focused on. I just focused on playing tennis, which I think helped me. Another freshman on the team did the same thing and we didn't focus on the fact that we are freshmen, we just played, and it has turned out pretty well.

Q: How did you train to prepare for spring and to make sure you are in the lineup?

A: I am always working hard in practice and always showing up. Doing well over fall does help me when it comes to spring because I got to compete against some high level competition. Overall, being the best I can everyday in practice I think will help secure a spot.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming spring season?

A: I have a friend who plays tennis at Mississippi State and another one who plays at Florida State so I am looking forward to playing those teams.

Q: How do you like the team dynamic?

A: The team dynamic is actually pretty strong. We are all pretty good friends and we all get along with one another, even with our diverse group of people from places like Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. It's interesting having the cultures collide but it is not really that big of a deal because we all like the same thing.

Q: How do you like the coaching staff?

A: I like it a lot. I think the coaches are there to help us. They really want what's best for the program. I believe Marcelo and Coach Ben really bring their best every practice and every match, which helps us as players and as people.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine for a couple reasons. Pepperdine's history as a tennis program is really strong and has won a national championship so that was part of it. I like California a lot and Malibu is an unbelievable area. Plus, the school is very good also. Those three things all added up to me making my decision.

Q: What has been your favorite tournament so far?

A: We played a tournament over the fall in San Francisco. It was a really cool tournament because it was my first college tournament. We were playing guys from big name schools and the facility we played at was very cool.

Q: Who has inspired/helped you the most throughout your career?

A: I would say my parents because I couldn't be here without them. They have always pushed me to play tennis and I have been the better for it especially over the long run.

Q: How were your first few months adjusting to Pepperdine and your new team?

A: The team was really nice coming on as a freshman. It was really cool since high school and junior tennis is all individual so it's kind of different to join a team and play tennis. It is really cool and different and I have loved it. It has been a blast.

Men's Volleyball Q&A: Alex Gettinger

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Alex Gettinger, a freshman outside hitter on the men's volleyball team, tells us about his transition from high school volleyball to playing here at Pepperdine and what it's like to play under new head coach David Hunt:

Alex  Gettinger

Q: How was your first semester at Pepperdine?

A: It was very different and interesting. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri, where it's a lot colder and moves a lot faster compared to Malibu. I felt like I had a lot of free time here, more than I did in high school. It was nice getting used to being here.

Q: What led you to play volleyball at Pepperdine?

A: The coaches. Coach Hunt is an amazing coach. He learned a lot from the last head coach, Marv Dunphy.

Q: How have your first few weeks of season been?

A: It's been good! We lost this week to UC Irvine but it was a good match. I think the team is learning a lot.

Q: How did you feel playing in your first college match?

A: It was really cool. We played Cal Lutheran and going into the third set, having won the first two, Coach told me that I would be going in and I was really excited about it.

Q: What's it like playing volleyball at Pepperdine versus in high school or for the USA Youth and Junior teams?

A: Here, we lift three or four times a week and practice every day, which is a lot more than I did before. During high school and club, we didn't get that same volume of practice that we do here and we weren't required to lift.

Q: How do you feel playing for David Hunt, in his first year as head coach?

A: I think he's doing a fantastic job. I'm learning a lot from him and I'm sure my teammates are as well. It's a lot different than before. He's so knowledgeable about volleyball and it's so great to learn from him.

Q: What can we expect looking forward at the rest of your season?

A: From me, I'm just going to be ready to come in whenever Coach wants me to. From the team, I would say we're just going to be competitive. Our conference is always top level, so we just have to keep training and competing but I think we'll do well.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of your volleyball career at Pepperdine?

A: I would like to play as much as possible especially over the next couple of years as I develop a bit more. I also hope that we can continue to improve as a team. It will be competitive, but it would be really amazing if we could make it to NCAAs.

Peyton Langston is a first-year Wave, but she's one of the most experienced players on the women's basketball team after playing for three seasons at Evansville before heading to Malibu as a graduate transfer. She's second on the team at 8.5 points per game. Here are some of her thoughts on the season so far:

Peyton  Langston

Q: We are 10 games into the season and the WCC season is about to start. How do you feel the team has performed so far?

A: I think that we are performing well. There are definitely some things that we can improve on, but I feel that we can definitely make some solid changes as conference starts.

Q: Coming in as a transfer student, how was the transition to Malibu been?

A: It has been good. The coaching style that I had come from has definitely been different. The practices are really different, but I was able to adjust pretty quickly.

Q: Speaking of coaching styles, what has been the biggest difference between your old coaches, and Coach DeLisha Milton-Jones?

A: Coach DeLisha definitely has a more pro-style mindset. Her practices are more focused on game-like situations instead of just drills. We are doing things that will help us on gameday rather than just going through the motions of basketball practices.

Q: Was it difficult to mesh with the team coming in?

A: Definitely not. They were all really welcoming and friendly.

Q: How do you feel that you have performed personally up to this point in the season?

A: I feel like in the beginning, I performed really well, but the past few games I haven't really played to my true standard. But the season isn't over, so there is definitely time to make adjustments and get back to how I know I should be playing.

Q: Where do you feel is the team's biggest strength?

A: Our biggest strength is attacking the basket. We face a lot of zone defense, because teams know we can attack the hoop. We have been able to break the zone pretty effectively and continue to play to our strengths.

Q: How have you been able to break the zone to continue to get those successful baskets?

A: We have been practicing finding the weak spots in the zone so we can play to our strengths. We also try to push the ball down the court in transition so we don't have to even face the zone.

Q: How has Coach Milton-Jones helped you out both as a team and personally?

A: As a team, she knows what she is doing. She and her coaching staff are always on top of things, and one step ahead of everything. They are always going over film and looking for the small details. She prepares us for the small things that would normally fly under our radar, but are really important. Personally, she motivates me and tries to get me to work on things so I can better help the team.

Q: Finally, what can we expect from the Waves for the rest of the season?

A: You can expect and exciting rest of the basketball season, and for us to shake the conference up.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Darnell Dunn

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Darnell Dunn, a junior forward and a first-year men's basketball player after transferring here this year, discusses what led him to play for Pepperdine and how he hopes to improve throughout the rest of the season:

Darnell  Dunn

Q: How did you start playing basketball?

A: Basketball has always been in my family. My dad played in college, my uncles and my mom also played basketball. My dad was also a high school coach so I've always been around it.

Q: How were your first two basketball seasons at your previous colleges?

A: They were definitely learning experiences. I played at the junior college level as well as the Division II level so they were both really different. Playing the game is fun, no matter what, but it's even better now that I can play at the Division I level.

Q: How did you choose to come all the way to California, being a North Carolina native?

A: After I had a solid season in junior college, Pepperdine was one of the schools that caught interest in me. I've always liked adventuring and seeing new places so it felt right. Playing in the WCC was also something that I thought would be really cool.

Q: How has your first semester at Pepperdine been going?

A: It's been interesting. It's definitely an adjustment going back to a four-year college after being at a two-year one. The main focus for me has really been the school aspect because it's more intense than what I'm used to. I've also been trying to balance school with my basketball schedule.

Q: What is your role on the Pepperdine basketball team?

A: Right now, my role has been to come off the bench and bring energy and score when possible. Also, to defend and get rebounds.

Q: You used to play with current Lakers player, Brandon Ingram, in high school. Have you stayed in touch with him and gone to any of his games since moving out here?

A: I've been to a few of his games. He's like my brother, we grew up together so it's nice to just hang out with him on the weekends.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?

A: For us to get back on track. We've had a rocky start to the season and we're trying to find ourselves right now with a young team and a lot of new players. We're just hoping to turn this ship around. I know what we are capable of as a team and we haven't shown that yet.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of your time at Pepperdine?

A: My priority is to graduate and get my degree because I know that basketball isn't going to be forever, but I would also like to maximize my basketball potential and see where that can take me.

Women's Basketball Q&A: Tylinn Carter

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Tylinn Carter is a graduate transfer who is starting at forward for the Pepperdine women's basketball team. She is averaging 6.5 points through eight games. She shares what it's like to be playing as a graduate student and how she is feeling about her team's ability:

Tylinn  Carter

Q: What is it like being a graduate transfer? Is it weird to only be here for one season?

A: It is very different from my undergrad, especially since I am pursuing my master's in an online program. I have more free time than usual and I love it. I wouldn't say it is weird to be here for one season, but it is definitely heartbreaking. I only have one year to teach my younger teammates so I am hoping to make the best out of it and help them grow as basketball players.

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine for grad school?

A: I chose to attend Pepperdine for grad school because it is a top academic school. I also did my research about the program I am pursuing and instantly grew an interest for it.

Q: What is it like playing for DeLisha Milton-Jones?

A: It is an absolute joy and a blessing to play for Coach DeLisha Milton-Jones. It's amazing to have a coach who understands the game and actually played at the level I am trying to get to. Because of her, I continue to play the game I love and have taken an interest in playing professionally again. I am truly grateful to have her as my coach to end my collegiate career.

Q: How have your first few games here gone? Do you feel like starting put you into a leadership role?

A: My first five games didn't go how I planned. I felt like I haven't contributed enough to my team and it hurt me, but I have picked it up the last game and I plan on staying consistent for the remainder of the season. I definitely feel like starting has put me in a leadership role because I believe my coach trusts me enough to lead by example and to start off the game strong.

Q: What did you expect for yourself this year with how much you would play and contribute?

A: Honestly, I expected to average a double-double and lead my team to the WCC championship. Now, I am letting the game come to me, and playing the best defense I can possibly play.

Q: Describe your game. What are your strengths? What are things you still want to work on?

A: I am very versatile. I can shoot and take my defender off the dribble. People may underestimate me because I play the post, but I can do a lot more than just make a post move to the basket. Some things I still want to work on are my counter moves and using my left hand more often.

Q: How do you compare your time at Delaware State, CSU Bakersfield and now Pepperdine?

A: Pepperdine is by far the best school I have been to as far as academics and athletic experience. I've never had a better coaching staff and the trainers are great. I love how Pepperdine is a Christian school and everyone seems to be moralistic and have their minds set on the right things. My past schools don't compare in that nature.

Q: How do you feel about the team?

A: I believe we can win the West Coast Conference. Although we are young, we are very talented and coachable. I think these aspects will take us very far in the season.

Q: What are your goals for this year for yourself and your team?

A: My goal for the team is to have a winning record and finish my collegiate career with a ring. I plan to keep being a leader and stay consistent on the court.

Q: Who are you most excited to play this year and why?

A: I am most excited to play Gonzaga because they won the conference last year. I was also being recruited by them coming out of high school.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Colbey Ross

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Colbey Ross is a freshman guard for the Pepperdine's men's basketball team. He's off to a great start, averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists. He explains how his adjustment to college has been, along with his hopes for himself and his team this year:

Colbey  Ross

Q: How have your first few months at Pepperdine been?

A: It has been great. My classes and teachers have been really good. I have been trying to adapt and learn my schedule and how to balance school and sports and how to be successful in both. Then, in basketball, it has been great being able to start and just being with my teammates has been the best thing for me.

Q: How has the start of the season gone?

A: Some of the games haven't gone as we planned. We have had some tough ones where we should have pulled out a win. We are learning every game but we still have to fix little things on defense if we want the results we know we are capable of. I feel like I am getting into more of a groove and have more leadership, which is helping my confidence on the court.

Q: What was it like to average 23 points during the home Legends Classic games? And how did both of those games go?

A: It was a fun experience getting to play at home for those games in front of our crowd. My teammates were helping me find plays to be successful and score. I was playing with more confidence and it started to show, I was making more shots and the flow of the game became more natural. We ended up winning one out of the two we played. They were both tough games.

Q: How did it feel to lead your team to a comeback win over Oral Roberts?

A: It felt good but everyone did their part and it was really a team effort. My shot was falling, which helped on the offensive end, but we all came together to get the win.

Q: What was it like playing in and starting at your first home game?

A: It was crazy having all the fans come out to support us. Putting on the jersey and playing D-I basketball was a dream I have always had and just to be able to go out and play has been really fun and cool.

Q: Do you think that summer workouts helped you fit in better with all the guys?

A: Definitely, having 16 other guys competing against each other and with each other and overall working hard together, I feel like that made it easier for everyone to get along and then push each other to become better.

Q: How has your adjustment to college been?

A: It has been good. You don't have anyone telling you to do your homework or having your mom telling you dinner is ready. You have to find a balance of when to do homework, when to eat and then when to get extra workouts in. I feel like it has been good and that I have found that balance and I think I am doing pretty well right now.

Q: What is the major difference between college and high school basketball and how are you adjusting?

A: It definitely is the speed and how everyone out there is so athletic. But I think I have a pretty high IQ for the game so I still understand the game and I feel like it lets me be a step ahead of my competition.

Q: How do you feel you contribute to the team?

A: Mainly by being a leader. I know I am a freshman but stepping into a leadership role and working hard for my teammates to make everyone better. Then doing what the coaches tell me and hopefully help us to get wins.

Q: What are your goals?

A: My goal is to win a West Coast Conference championship. That is a big goal for me. To get at least 20 wins in the season, I think, would be really big for our team. Then just to become a better player. I don't really care about stats or starting or not, I just want to become better and help my teammates win and to have the coaches be able to trust me.

Q: What is it like playing for Coach Wilson?

A: It has been great. He has trust in me but he definitely is on me and is going to continue to be on me to make sure I am reaching my full potential. I am going to work hard for him and do whatever he tells me to get better and learn to look at the game differently.

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: The coaches had a really big influence on me coming. The location of course, you definitely can't beat it. Then being in the conference we are in and being able to play Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU, which are all great teams. Those are the teams I want to be playing to increase my level of play.

Women's Swimming Q&A: Amy Griffin

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Amy Griffin, a freshman freestyler on the women's swim team, has made a huge splash on the team during her first semester. She tells us about her accomplishments thus far and her hopes as she continues her swimming career here at Pepperdine:

Amy  Griffin

Q: How did you choose to come to Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine for a number of reasons, including the beautiful campus, close community, swim team and proximity to home, but mainly because of the Christian values in and out of the classroom.

Q: How has your first semester been going with balancing swimming and school?

A: My first semester has been difficult being a sports med major with hard science classes. It's hard to find enough time to study while still getting eight hours of sleep before practice every morning.

Q: What do hope to do with your degree some day?

A: I'm interested in going into either physical therapy or nursing.

Q: You were awarded the PCSC Division I Athlete of the Week award a few weeks ago. How did that feel?

A: I was really surprised to be awarded athlete of the week but it was really exciting and it felt really good to be recognized.

Q: You had an outstanding performance at the recent A3 Invitational. How did you prepare for your first big collegiate meet?

A: To prepare for A3, I tried to get enough sleep at night to stay healthy and to be ready to work hard at practice in the morning while still having the energy for afternoon practice. In addition, I try to eat well and eliminate junk food, only eating food that I knew would give me more energy in the pool.

Q: What is the team dynamic like?

A: With a team of 40 women it is hard for everyone to be close. However, I've found a good group of close friends on the team and have been trying to get to know everyone. I love encouraging and cheering for my teammates and if you radiate a positive attitude, other people will respond in a similar way.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of the swim season?

A: My goal for the rest of season is obviously to improve and drop time in my events. I also want to not focus too much on times because I think it is more important to have fun and learn life lessons than swim .1 seconds faster.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish, in swimming, in your four years at Pepperdine?

A: In the next four years of swimming at Pepperdine, I hope to be a leader through encouraging my team and supporting my girls. I want to be seen as a trustworthy and hardworking teammate. Most importantly I want to glorify God whether I have a good or bad race and radiate joy.